Who’s Paying?

Once upon a time, I heard a woman speak about an organization that had united women who considered themselves pro-life with women who considered themselves pro-choice to work on a common goal – fewer unwanted pregnancies among teenagers. The idea was, as vitriolic as the fight about abortion could be, there were still some things that pretty much everyone could agree on, one of them being, teenagers should not be having babies. (Of course, I saw this woman speak when I was in high school. Ah, the late ’90s. We thought we were a country divided then. We had no idea what was to come.) To that end, this group created the Baby-Think-It-Over that would be used in high school classrooms across America to stimulate what having a newborn was actually like. It was like making teenagers carry around an egg or a sack of flour and pretending that was a baby, only for the Next Generation. The baby doll had a computer inside it that would get it to cry and stuff, at random hours, with very slightly different cries for “hungry,” “tired,” “need a diaper change,” and “don’t give a shit, just gonna cry until you want to throw me off something.” And then the computer would record how long it took you to tend to the crying baby, how often you fed it, changed it, burped it, etc., and even whether or not you did, in fact, shake it or throw it off of something. I was never in the class that distributed these, but my sister was, and guess what? I have a kid now and she doesn’t. Coincidence? Probably. Yes. But that’s not my point.

My point is that there was this organization that said, “Look, we don’t agree when it comes to whether or not a fetus is a viable being with its own right to life separate from its mother. Fine. But we do agree that teenagers shouldn’t have babies. What could we do to work together on that project?”

Right now there is a protest going in Chicago – and it’s part of a country-wide protest – about raising the minimum wage. People who disagree with the notion tend to say things like, “Look, it’s a minimum wage – you’re supposed to get promoted and get more money!” and “Why are these people looking for handouts from their employers?” and “It’s unskilled work – how much do you think you should get paid to do it?” And I disagree with these sentiments pretty vehemently. Not everyone is going to get promoted. The whole point of having a minimum wage is that it should be a living wage, which is not. Getting paid does not equal getting a handout. Etc.

But the comments miss a point, and it’s a point I think we could all agree on. The point is, multi-billion dollar corporations should not be getting government handouts. Our taxes should not go to padding the wallets of people who are going to use our money to buy that third man-made island off the coast of Dubai that they’ve always wanted.

And that’s what not raising the minimum wage does. Look, every company needs employees who have had enough to eat, who have a safe place to sleep and a stable home where they can be found by their employers, who have the transportation necessary to get to and from work, who are healthy and energetic enough to come in to work and perform their tasks. At the very barest minimum. The current minimum wage in most places is not high enough to pay for those things. Not even for a single person, never mind a person who has any kind of family to support.

And yet, McDonald’s, et al, finds employees who have had enough to eat, who have safe(ish) homes, who can (by hook or by crook) get to and from work, and who are (sort of) healthy and energetic enough to perform their tasks. How?

Because minimum wage workers are making so little – even when they work two full-time minimum wage jobs – that they qualify for public assistance. Because your taxes fund food stamps and housing vouchers and bus passes and Medicaid and an assortment of other programs that do their damnedest to make up the difference between what their pay can afford them and what they actually need to function. Do those government programs always work really well? No! Should there be serious inquiries into how they allocate their money and whether the programs are actually serving the needs of the people they’re supposed to serve while not wasting the money of the taxpayers whose taxes feed those funds? Absolutely yes! But do they work well enough to ensure that McDonald’s doesn’t have to pay their employees better?

Yes. Yes, they do.

Those corporate officers are living the high life on YOUR taxpayer dollar. They can afford to give themselves billions in bonuses because they know that you, the taxpayer, are picking up the tab to keep their employees fed and housed and transported and all the rest. Forget about minimum-wage workers asking for hand-outs; this is already-incredibly-profitable COMPANIES asking for handouts, asking you, the taxpayer, to pay their employees so that those employees can help the companies make an even bigger profit.

We can all, left or right, bleeding-heart or bootstraps-believer, agree that that’s fucking bullshit, can’t we?

 

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Awesome

Have you guys seen this? This is awesome.

This is one of those things that’s just such an abuse of statistics, there should be shelters.

See, it’s a list of things that the rich and the poor do differently that clearly makes the difference between being rich and poor! You can find them all in Thomas C. Corley’s book! And if you read that nifty little bio I just linked, you’ll find that these habits are derived from studying 233 “wealthy” people’s daily habits and 128 people “living in poverty.” Because that is a large enough sample from which to glean data. Hahaha.

How are wealth and poverty being defined? Don’t know! Did Thomas C. Corley take care to include a mix of other demographics, such as where in the country and in what types of communities these people lived  (rural or urban? job availability? social service availability? socio-economic diversity?), whether they had children and how many they had, what levels of education they had received, how old they were? Don’t know! Is it at all possible that these habits are correlated and not causing the wealth and/or poverty of the participants of this study? Don’t know!

Now, to be fair, I didn’t read the book, so maybe he answers these questions in there. But . . . I think not.

And look at these statistics!

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

A) Why are junk food and gambling in the same “item”? I mean, they don’t seem to have anything to do with each other . . . unless you’re just making a moral judgment. “These are two bad, dirty, evil things only stupid, bad people do.”

B) What does “gamble” mean in this context? Does it mean play the lottery? Because, I mean, you’re not likely to win, but it’s also pretty cheap. Does it mean go to casinos? I read one of those Michael Lewis books about Wall Street, and as far as I can tell, “investment banking” = “gambling” and most of the people who do it are pretty wealthy, so . . . we’re not including that, then?

C) How are we defining “junk food”?

D) However we’re defining it, “junk food” is cheaper than healthy food and generally less time-consuming. Which is why people who are lacking in money and time eat it. Duh.

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

How . . . do you even define that?

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.

It couldn’t possibly be that the wealthy, not having to work two full-time jobs to even maintain a certain level of poverty, and not having to work jobs that are physically as well as mentally exhausting, and not having paid help to do laundry and cook and clean and shop for them, have more time to “exercise aerobically”, could it?

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.

Umm . . . a lot of poor people don’t have cars and commute via public transportation? And a lot of people, poor and not, carpool, and it would be rude to listen to audio books then? Also just because something is a “book” doesn’t mean it’s mentally stimulating or helpful?

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.

Wait, seriously? Wealthy parents do this? Wealthy parents, stop doing this. Let your child develop a love of reading and an interest in the world without your forcing it on them. My parents never “made” me read shit; instead they spent a lot of their time going, “You have to stop reading now, we’re in the car and it’s dark,” and “You have to stop reading now, you’re walking up the stairs.”

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% of poor.

A) When you volunteer, it’s frequently “the poor” you’re trying to help.

B) That sounds off to me, if only because in wealthier areas, schools are frequently requiring the volunteering, not parents. Are we counting parents “making” their children fulfill the requirements of their school?

C) A lot of children in poor families spend their “free” time working for $ to help support their families. Asswipe.

8. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor.

The fuck does this even mean? Maybe poor people live closer to their friends, families and loved ones and get to actually see each other instead of making calls on birthdays.

11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.

What the fuckedy fuck does that mean? How were such statistics gathered? Mind-reading?

12. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.

That’s like saying, “And wealthy people are far more likely to have a secretary or administrative assistant to help with office tasks!” Like, duh. Jobs that pay well have assistants and networking things. Jobs that don’t tend not to.

14. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.

Bullshit. 6% of wealthy WILL ADMIT to watching reality TV in public.

15. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor.

Yeah, 44% of wealthy people don’t have to leave the house before the sun comes up. 44% of wealthy people got to come home before midnight. 44% of wealthy people CAN wake up three hours before work starts while still getting six-eight hours of sleep. 97% of poor people would only sleep an hour or two a day if they got up three hours before work started.

16. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% of poor.

Well, the wealthy know what the good daily success habits are? If by “success” you mean “wealth”?

17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% of poor.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% of poor.

Read that and then remember that people like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney believe that their success was based on their own hard work and diligence and not at all the luck of their birth and the opportunities that resulted. As far as I can tell, wealthy people often believe ERRONEOUSLY that their success is entirely the result of their own hard work and correct habits, and do not credit the role luck had in their success. Poor people have often had the opportunity to see that DESPITE their hard work and best efforts at good habits, they STILL were subject to rotten luck. Also people tend to tell the story of their life in the way that’s the most flattering to them; this statistic is just a result of that.

Honestly, this is such ridiculous, ill-presented, ill-argued bullshit, it made me laugh.

 

 

 

Oy With the Nonsense Again

I wrote this post, like, forever ago and forgot to post it. Here it is:

fetus_gun

a) I’m moving to Thursdays! Hi, guys!

b) If you are reading my blog and you see something interesting or want to respond to me, please do so! I would very much welcome comments and interactions!

b1) My post A Story My Grandmother Once Told Me continues to get tons of hits, and tons of Google searches. Who is looking at it? Why? Is it what you’re searching for? Please tell me!

Okay, enough of my desperate writer-pleas. On to the post.

You know that dude who wants fetuses (feti? Jason, help me out here!) to have guns to prevent abortion?

I wasn’t going to talk about that dude, honestly. Because what are you supposed to say when certain members of certain political parties make their positions so ridiculous as to be un-parody-able?

But I just want to say this one thing – I don’t think that Congressman Stockman intends that the fetus should shoot its mother. And not because that would be counter-productive to the fetus itself. I don’t think Stockman and his ilk know enough about biology to understand that. I mean, this is coming from the same brain trust as those guys who think women can shut down an unwanted pregnancy, right? Which . . . then why are there ever abortions? Or morning after pills? Or, hell, pills at all? I mean, if I could just block sperm from meeting egg with the power of my mind, why would I have ever fucked with my hormones by taking birth control pills?

No, I think the Steve Stockmans of the world are thinking that the fetus will take aim at the abortion doctor. Do you remember some years ago there was that video flying around wherein the filmmakers were asking a bunch of people at a pro-life rally what they thought ought to happen, legally, to a woman who chose to abort her child if such an act were illegal. Would it be tried the same as murder? Would there be some other punishment? Most of the participants said something along the lines of “Well, that’s between her and God,” or whatever, leading the rhetoric around the video in pro-choice circles to be very, “See? They believe in choice even when they don’t believe in choice! They believe it should be a private decision just like we do?”

But that left out the part of the video where participants were very clear on the idea that the DOCTORS who performed abortions ought to be tried for murder.

Because remember, in the deep, deep bowels of the anti-choice movement, women are agency-free. They can’t make decisions about their bodies, whether it’s to have sex or not (because rape is like the weather! It just happens!), to be pregnant or not (our bodies decide if it’s “legitimate” rape, not us!), or to have an abortion or not (we were tricked by the snake-in-the-garden doctors!).

So anyway. For what it’s worth. I think that dude was targeting doctors in his ridiculous statement, not mothers.

Boys Will Be Donald Trump

a-lion-roars

 

So in news the irony of which is dulled by the lack of surprise, the guy in the Air Force who was in charge of sexual assault prevention and response sexually assaulted some chick at a bar. Hey, it wasn’t one of his own female underlings, so, you know, that’s something. I mean, he’s in charge of preventing sexual assault IN THE AIR FORCE, not just any old place, right?

Sigh.

Anyway, this has led to media discussion of sexual assault in the military in general, and the low rate of both reports and convictions.

Donald Trump’s take?

He tweeted (and I wanted to post an image of his tweet but . . . that seemed like more work than I was willing to do), “26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”

I don’t know if Donald Trump knows this, but MEN AND WOMEN ARE TOGETHER ALL THE TIME. We share the fucking planet. We live in homes, in apartments, in dorms, and in condo complexes together. We ride the same public transportation together and work in office buildings, factories, schools, etc., together. And many, many, many men DO NOT RAPE WOMEN.

I’m not saying all men do not rape women. Many do, obviously. But many more men don’t rape women than do rape women. I swear.

And the thing is, if your premise is, “Men cannot be in close quarters with women without raping and/or sexually assaulting them,” my only answer continues to be, then we need to lock men up. We do not let lions roam the streets of our cities freely because lions will eat people if they do. It’s not their fault. It’s in their nature. I mean, the lions who live on the savannah in Africa, well, that’s their territory, and it’s a human’s responsibility to tread cautiously there, I guess. But men don’t get to declare the whole world their territory. So there you go, Donald Trump. If, as you say, it is in men’s nature to rape and sexually assault women, then we will clear off some land for you in, say, Montana – I hear there’s a lot of it there – and you can all run wild there. Women will just know to only travel to Montana in specially arranged Jeeps with tour guides who can get them away from you quickly if you look ready to pounce. And who could shoot you, if worse comes to worse. (I’ve never been on safari. The guides carry guns, right? Just in case? Maybe just a tranq gun? I don’t know.)

Now, if I were dictator of the USA, as I wish to be, I would not immediately clear out land in Montana and put all the men there. Because I, man-hating feminist that I am, do not believe that all men have it indelibly in their natures to rape and sexually assault women.

However, I will reserve a small plot of land for any man that says anything like, “Rape? Sexual assault? Well, what did you expect when you put the men and the women right there together?” Because if YOU think men cannot be around women without raping them, and YOU are a man . . . well, you don’t need an advanced class in Logic to figure out what the “then” to this statement is.

Same-Sex Marriage Will Totes Ruin “Traditional” Marriage

To the extent that “traditional” means fuck-all.

Look, feminism is already working on destroying same-sex marriage, and basically in the same way same-sex marriage will – by fucking with “traditional” gender roles. To the extent that “traditional” means “some amalgam of what we think was happening in the 1950s and what we think was happening in the late Victorian era.” Which are two different eras. And which are not exactly what we think they are.

And you know what? Freud fucked up traditional marriage. So did changes in child labor laws. So did the mother-fucking Industrial Revolution, which is only, like, less than two hundred years old, but still serves as the point at which what we think of as “traditional marriage” (man works outside the home for a pay check, woman is dependent on him financially but runs the home and the child care, which is defined as “not working”) started! The idea that you should primarily marry someone you love BLEW TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE TO HELL! And Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, in their times, all put different spins on the “traditional” forms of marriage that immediately preceded them, in different ways, at different times. Restrictions on polygamy ruined “traditional” marriage.

And you know what? Maybe fifty years down the line, we’ll decide that as long as two people of the same sex can get married, why not more than two people of any arrangement of genitalia?

And you know what else?

I don’t give a damn.

I mean, it’s never going to be, you know, you can marry a child or a horse or a toaster. Because children and horses and toasters can’t give consent. But I really don’t care if the state legalizes polygamy.

Here’s what I would do if I got to be dictator of the United States. I would abolish “marriage” as a concept on the state level. “Marriage,” the institution in which two (or more) people pledge to love and be faithful to one another for all eternity, to form a family unit within their community, and to grow old together, blah blah blah – this is not the state’s business, interest or concern. You can still do it, through your religious institution or in some other ceremony, for yourselves, with your community, whatever. But the state will not care.

The state will only care about two things: who is financially responsible for each other? And, who is financially responsible for the children connected to you?

So the state will have household units. Any number of consenting adults with any relationship to each other can enter into one with each other, and what it will mean to be in one of these units is, “We are financially responsible for each other,” and “We are responsible for any children either produced by the women in this household or adopted by this household.” The tax code will reflect that household units, and not individuals, are the primary economic units in the country. It will be incredibly difficult to get out of a household unit once you’re in, so obviously, enter into a household unit only with people you don’t mind being stuck with forever and ever and ever.

And that’s it. That’s my plan. Household units. Wovsaniker 2016!

 

Steubenville?

daffy duck

So on the one hand, there are a lot of things that have been happening lately that are the kinds of things I normally comment on. Steubenville. Leaning In. Duck penis studies.

But I was busy writing about Bet Me and then having Passover in NJ and then Passover here and, you know, life stuff is happening and I just never got around to it.

So I don’t have anything to actually say about duck penises that I haven’t already said.

And I’m not touching the Lean In phenomenon. I have my own conflicting emotions about  my personal choices vis-a-vis work and motherhood and I don’t want to sort what I think, intellectually, about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In while also grappling with my feelings. Also, I haven’t read it, and did y’all see my TBR pile on Facebook last week? Yeah, I’m not prepared to add it.

I am also not touching New York‘s Feminist Housewife article right now. Just too many feelings getting in the way of my thoughts.

So . . . Steubenville?

Oy. Steubenville.

Victoria Dahl, who writes some of my favorite contemporary romances and also some pretty great historic romances, as well as my very favorite Twitter feed, had an interesting post on her tumblr. (Warning for those of you who click on the post, and then click on the rest of her tumblr – there are some images that are NSFW! Also, they are hoooot. Did I mention I love Victoria Dahl so much?)

She’s responding to the current feminist message that we shouldn’t be teaching our daughters not to get raped, we should be teaching our sons not to rape. She points out that for a long time, we’ve been taught that rape is not about sex but control and power; that rapists rape because they want to assert power and dominance over their victims, not because they wanted sex and didn’t care how the person who they were having sex with felt about it. And, basically, rapers gonna rape, y’all. Protect your drinks.

Dahl points out that rape IS sometimes about sex, and to the extent that it is, yes, teach your sons that no means no, yes means yes, and everything that isn’t yes means no, and if you’re getting mixed messages ask again, and women are people, not objects for your pleasure, and etc. etc. etc.

But when it’s not about sex, when it’s about violence and power and dominance, then it’s disempowering to tell your daughters that there’s nothing they can do to protect themselves from evil rapists. It’s good to tell them to watch their drinks, take a self-defense course, not get drunk to the point of vulnerability when surrounded by people she can’t trust. (It’s also good to talk to your daughters about how you can tell who you can and can’t trust.)

Even thought I’ve been cheering the idea that we teach our sons not to rape instead of teaching our daughters not to get raped, I don’t disagree with Victoria Dahl here. You give your children – all of them – basic safety information. Curl your fingers away from the knife when slicing. Don’t get in a stranger’s car. If anyone ever tells you not to tell your parents something, TELL YOUR PARENTS IMMEDIATELY. And, yes, watch your drink, and don’t incapacitate yourself when you’re not in trustworthy environs. (And pay attention to your friends. Make sure they’re actually trustworthy and not just cool or fun.)

Dahl’s post is definitely a needed perspective in the current rhetoric about rape, which is, at best, confused and unhelpful. We need to remember, in our current pissed-off-ness about the media coverage of rape, that rape is a crime and teaching men and women to take reasonable steps to protect themselves from crimes is a perfectly normal and even required part of, like, life.

But I said on Facebook, “The biggest difference between telling a person, ‘You shouldn’t carry an open purse; you’ll get robbed,’ and ‘You shouldn’t get drunk at parties; you’ll get raped’ is that no one ever says of a convicted robber, ‘Oh, that poor, poor kid. His future is ruined now, and all because that irresponsible girl couldn’t keep her purse closed. I mean, how was he supposed to KNOW she didn’t want to have her stuff taken, what with her purse all opened like that?'”

It’s not like you shouldn’t tell someone to close their purse. It’s fine. It’s a perfectly valid piece of advice. But the feminist sentiment that we should be teaching men not to rape instead of teaching women not to be raped IS more about the cultural rhetoric around rape than it is about the practicality.

For one thing, the advice sometimes borders on absurd. Go into any room of women and ask if any of them have ever a) been drunk around a guy they didn’t intend to have sex with, b) been alone with no physical recourse with a guy they didn’t intend to have sex with, c) been alone and at least partially undressed with a guy they didn’t intent to have sex with, d) flirted with a guy they didn’t have sex with, e) been at parties with guys they didn’t intend to have sex with – and then NOT been raped. I don’t mean to be callous about this. I know that, in that room, there will be women who have been raped, to the tune of 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 or whatever the latest, unreliable statistic is (because so many rapes go unreported, or even unacknowledged by the victim). But even women who HAVE been raped will have also NOT been raped in moments where the cultural rhetoric seems to agree that, had you been, it would have been your fault. So hearing “Drinking and flirting with boys will get you raped!” sounds a lot like “One inhalation of reefer and you will die young, bitter, broke and in jail! With no brain cells!” It sounds like a lie. People do these things all the time and they’re fine. Because a great many men – maybe even the majority of men – even when they are teenagers! – don’t rape women.

But some do.

And the thing about Steubenville is, I mean, I guess they were more about power than sex, since they didn’t, actually, um . . . put the p in the v? Right? So I guess they were asserting their power?

But the really striking thing about it was, as far as I can tell, the boys really had no idea that what they were doing was wrong. And honestly . . . why should they? A lot of people (the ones who haven’t been bemoaning the ruined futures of these poor, innocent fuhball players) are upset that these kids got tried as juveniles instead of as adults, but I think this is a CLASSIC situation in which trying them as juveniles seems completely appropriate. The whole idea of trying people under the age of eighteen as juveniles is that they’re simply not old enough to fully understand the implications and consequences of their actions. When they’re tried as adults, it’s because the particular crime in question is considered so bad (and their age is considered advanced enough) that they couldn’t possibly argue that they’re not old enough to understand how bad what they did was.

Yes, of course, rape SHOULD be one of those crimes that a sixteen-year-old boy would know is wrong. But it is very evident from their treating their rape of this girl like it was the coolest party trick in town indicates that they strongly did not know that it was wrong.

And why should they have? None of the people at the parties they went to said, “Hey, dude, what you’re doing is wrong.” Well, apparently one of their friends texted them to tell them to cut that shit out, but his voice was drowned out by all the other people going, “Hahaha this is awesome let’s videotape this shit and throw it up on Twitter!” And then their community by and large backed them up and protected them.

And then fucking CNN and Good Morning America were saying things about how these poor boys’ fuhball futures were ruined because this skanky ho got drunk enough to pass out and how were they supposed to KNOW that they shouldn’t stick their fingers in the orifices of passed out girls? I mean, the girl consented to going to the party and drinking and everything! That’s the same as consenting to any and all sexual acts while she’s unconscious! Right? Right!

I mean, when fucking CNN and GMA, which are for and by adults, don’t know that rape is wrong, how do we expect sixteen-year-olds to?

And that’s why feminists are focusing on education about rape is wrong. Because apparently we, as a culture, don’t know.

Okay. Next week I think I’m going to talk about, I don’t know . . . The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or something innocuous. And if there could be no rapes that are hideously mishandled by mainstream media, or Republicans saying hideous things about rape and abortion, or psychopaths shooting up schools, for, like, the next three months? That’d be great, America. Thanks.

Who’s the Boss?

man and baby

 

So two weeks ago I mentioned another tweet by Jessica Valenti commenting on this. And I swear to God, NYT, I love much about you, but if you want to be the august paper of record you’ve got to stop publishing drivel.

So what I linked to there is a conversation between two NYT columnists about this nonsense notion that the reason men don’t step up about parenting (assuming they don’t) is that women want to keep control in that arena. Blergh.

I’m not denying that, in some households, there is a dynamic by which the husband really, really, really wants to be an equal partner in the parenting and really, really, really wants to make all parenting decisions together, but the wife, in a jealous attempt to guard her womanhood, won’t let him. I’m not denying it because all relationship dynamics exist. All the ones you’ve thought of, all the ones you’ve seen, and a billion ones you’ve never thought of, they all exist. The planet is 7 billion strong and people are people and everything exists. If the Internet has taught us nothing, it should have taught us this: everything exists. (And there is a porn of it.) (Link totally SFW, BTW. It’s just an xkcd comic.)

But that doesn’t mean it’s prevalent or constant and even if it is a legitimate trend (and one should never conclude that something is a legitimate trend just because it’s mentioned in the New York Times), this “debate” offers little real insight. In fact, it seems to me that the “debate” is more like, she says x, he says x is wrong, and she says, haha, okay, you’re right, x is wrong, silly female me!

She starts the debate by saying she never wanted to be the one in charge, and she and her husband really do things very equally, but when she went out of town, she still had to pull over to the side of the road to walk her husband through some basic, daily, “On Tuesday Kid One goes here and Kid Two goes there; drop off Kid One first but pick up Kid Two first,” kind of stuff and how is that she got to be in this position of being in charge like that?

(I should use their names, right? He is Bruce Feiler, of This Life, and author of these two books. She is KJ Dell’Antonia, of Motherlode, and co-author of this.

[Wait, what is this? I like Motherlode and everything, but we need a book of instruction on how to read to our children? Here’s how you read to your children: 1) Place child in lap, next to one on couch or comfy chair, or in bed with you lying next to him/her. Or, if there’s more than one child, arrange children around you so that all have equal access to the pictures. 2) Choose book you like. The younger the child, the less it matters. I used to read aloud from my romance novels when Zoe was an infant. When they get older, choose ones with good pictures, so even if the book sucks, at least you’re looking at something interesting. 3) Read. 4) Pause as often as your patience can handle to answer or pose questions about the book. Sometimes your patience can handle zero interruption. That’s okay.])

Anyway, the dude responds to her opening by defending dads, linking to all that research showing that women edge out their male partners when it comes to parenting on purpose because they don’t want to give up the mommy power, and says, “When a mother criticizes her partner’s child-care efforts, it causes him to lose confidence and withdraw. When she praises his efforts, he takes a more active role.”

And she doesn’t say, “Oh, my God, you fucking wilting flower. The whole problem is that men’s child-care efforts wax and wane in response to their female partner’s responses whereas the mother is JUST EXPECTED TO DO SHIT. Mothers don’t have the LUXURY of WHINING that you didn’t PRAISE OUR DIAPERING ADEQUATELY and therefore we will not diaper, because THE DIAPER STILL NEEDS TO BE FUCKING CHANGED. You fucking tool.”

Nor does she say, “Hey, wait a minute, the question on the table is, ‘Why is the mom always the default parent?’ You’re not answering that question. You’re accepting that the mom is always the default parent, and then answering the question, ‘How can moms get their male parenting partners to help out more?’ That’s faulty logic, and it’s not helpful to this discussion.”

She does, at least, point out something important, which is that women are the ones who feel the pressure to be good parents. And not “good,” like, nurturing and caring and with an eye toward emotional development. “Good” like, “on top of shit.” Knowing which day the forms for the soccer team are due and which classroom can’t have peanuts and whether that movie is appropriate for their age group. That’s a really important point in this debate, that women bear the social costs of parenting and so of course they’re going to feel more pressure to do things “right.”  She talks about how she can only feel okay about going on business trips, etc., if things go smoothly while she’s gone; if things go wrong and she’s getting a call about why no one is here to pick up the kids 20 minutes after school is out and she’s in, like, Spain, then she feels like she’s fucking up as a parent. But not the dad, who’s the one who’s actually late to pick them up. He’s a real trouper for taking care of shit, even if he is the one who’s 20 minutes late, while his irresponsible, career-obsessed wife is off doing her own thing and not caring about her kids. “You see that whole dominant parent thing as something women want to protect; I see it as something we can’t escape.” Sing it, sister!

It’s not dissimilar, actually, to the question, “Why don’t women want casual sex as much as men do?” I mean, sure, there’s the fact that we get pregnant and men don’t. And the fact that we’re less likely to experience pleasure with a casual partner than a man is. But there’s also the social pressure. It’s still true that a man having casual sex is The Man while a woman having casual sex is, at best, Making A Poor Choice Right Now and at worst A Whore. So, duh. Higher cost, less likelihood of benefit.

But I digress.

So KJ makes this perfectly valid point about women bearing the brunt of the societal pressure to “do” parenting “right,” and face constant judgment if we’re wrong.  And it’s true. Let’s say I change Zoe’s diaper and not Jason. Nothing remarkable has happened. (I mean, now, something remarkable has happened, because she’s four, but let’s pretend this example is happening back when she was a baby.) Mom did the most minor part of her job, Dad did not do something that was not his job in the first place. Now let’s say Jason changes the stinky diaper but puts the new one on backwards. (Those of you who know Jason know that this never happened once. But let’s just say for the sake of example.) Now Jason is a super-awesome dad for being willing to change diapers, and also adorably incompetent because dads! They don’t know things! Someone should make a hilarious and heart-warming movie about that! Whereas I can either turn the diaper around, thereby discouraging Jason from diapering again because why do I have to criticize his parenting and don’t I realize it’s all my fault that women do so much more of the child care than men? Or I can leave the diaper as is, which makes me a (mildly) negligent mother. Now let’s say Jason changes the stinky diaper and does it right! Goddamn it, he’s a fucking superhero! Wow, he knows how to diaper right?! Go him! Whereas I must be some sort of castrating superbitch to have forced my husband into a position where he’s changed diapers so often he actually knows how to do it right.

And don’t think this doesn’t pollute marriages themselves. Get told enough times that, as a male, diapering wasn’t really your job in the first place, and doing it right makes you a goddamned superhero, and a tiny part of you might start to believe it. So that when your wife is upset at you about something else, and when both of you are tired and frustrated and in bad moods, even if you don’t fully believe it, you will come out with, “Hey, do you know how many husbands won’t even touch a dirty diaper? You’re lucky to have a guy like me!”

Sometimes I think the whole problem with men and women these days is that the bar of expectations is so low for men that even when they clear it by miles, they still get obnoxious about it.

I’m still digressing. Sorry.

So does Bruce say, “Gosh, it must be difficult to live with these societal expectations. I don’t even know what it’s like. Having the privilege of being male has protected me from that. I will take your experience seriously because obviously you know your own life better than I do.”?

Hahahahaha.

No. Bruce is totally dismissive! She’s so nice in her entries, all “I totally see where you’re coming from, and yes, I can understand how it would feel like this if I were a man,” you know, like girls are taught to be. And he’s a jerk, because men aren’t taught to be non-jerks. He says, “Are we all Princess Diana now? We have a ‘third person’ in our marriage?” He suggests that she simply ignore societal pressure. “So the next time you hear (or imagine) those whispers or see (or invent) those raised eyebrows,” you say, “Hey, Dad was on duty today,” and he apparently thinks that will make everything better because he didn’t listen to what she was saying in the first place.

And then KJ totally caves! She claims that “the whispers and the eyebrows really are in my head” and that, in the “mommy wars,” “we’re not really judging one another. We’re judging ourselves.”

And I cry foul! What a cop-out! KJ, why did you just let Bruce claim to understand your experience better than you do?! Why did you just agree it was “all in your head” and that you would just be stronger about dealing with it?!

Look, social pressure, societal expectations, these are real things! They aren’t fake; they aren’t in your head; they are out there in the world!

And seriously, if you don’t believe there’s real judgment about how to mother in the world, go ahead. Come up with a question about parenting – anything at all – and type it into Google and see what kind of crazed, judgmental, vitriolic shit comes out. And it’s not just on Google! It’s just more subtle in real life. Sometimes.

I mean, God, the history of feminism is a long, long history of men telling women that various things were all in their head and women finally saying, “Fuck you, no, it’s not, and we’re going to pass some motherfucking laws about it already.” I feel like starting a mommy consciousness-raising group or something. The pressure is not all in our heads! It is out there; it is everywhere; it is not going away and we need to do something! The personal is political! Who’s with me?! Do you hear the mommies sing?! Singing the song of angry moms! It is the music of a people who will not get sleep again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beat of other moms, there is a movement that will start when tomorrow comes!

And if anyone has any flag color suggestions, let me know!

Romance, Literature, and Body Image

I’m stuck in a place where this is not a whole blog post, but it’s also way too long for a Facebook status update, so consider it, like, a mini. A little treat for you for today. Just because I love you.

So this study came out and seems to be showing that it’s damaging for women to read about a) skinny chicks in literature, and b) fat chicks who have issues about being fat in literature. In the sense that reading these things makes them feel bad about their own bodies.

Now, the methodology already seems screwed. Why did they change the words to two already existing chick lit books instead of finding several chick lit books that had a variety of sizes and shapes and attitudes of heroines? Is it because they couldn’t find enough chick lit books that were specific enough about height and weight? Isn’t that indicative of something right there?

But the other thing for me is, their conclusions just feel completely opposite to my experience. I read a lot of romance and chick lit as a teenager and I feel it was precisely that that saved me from having serious body image issues. If I had stuck with a diet of Seventeen magazine and movies in which we pretend Rachel Leigh Cook is ever not a very pretty girl (And seriously, how is that not the most damaging thing – to put beautiful women on screen and have them tell you they’re fat and ugly?), I would have been screwed. But I read about girls with many different shapes of body and many different attitudes towards their shape all having hot sex with men who were nuts about them. So instead of thinking, “I will never get laid and no one will ever find me attractive because I don’t look like Kate Moss,” I came of age thinking, “Wow, men are infinitely varied in their desires and chances are someone’s going to find my sparkling wit and my Rubenesque figure appealing.” And lo and behold, I found one!

(Yes, I knew the word Rubenesque as a teenager. I could have even identified paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. This should not be surprising to any of you.)

Actually, I thought the most interesting thing Bridget Jones’s Diary did was it gave you a weight for the heroine (which was pretty low – at my weight I do have trouble picturing the woman on whom 130 lbs = heifer) but not her height or anything else about her physique. The point being that she’s fixated on this weight being unacceptable but it isn’t necessarily so to anyone else. The weight thing is about her struggles to feel like an acceptable and desirable person, not about her actual weight.

But anyway, my point is that, reading about women who were skinny and curvy and fat and had small boobs but big asses or big boobs but little asses or were tall or short or boyish-figured or voluptuous or whatever, and who liked their bodies or didn’t like their bodies, who experienced cultural approval for their bodies or didn’t, who liked that cultural approval or didn’t, etc, etc, etc, and all other permutations, and still got hot sex and deep love from men they desired, I think actually saved my body image, and did not damage it at all.

Leaving your Hypothetical Husband

Jessica Valenti posted this on Twitter and it pissed me off.

If you’re not going to read the article, I’ll give you a run-down. The article indicates that “the vast majority” of “young people” (80% of females, 70% of males) (and I’m assuming by “young”, they mean college-aged), across demographics, hold as the ideal an egalitarian marriage, where both partners share the burdens of money-making and home-keeping and child-rearing equally.

When asked what their ideal fallback would be, however, if such egalitarian harmony were impossible, young men and women are exactly the opposite – most young men hope that their wives will take care of the home front and let their careers take a backseat to a greater or lesser extent, and most young women claim they’d rather divorce their husbands and raise their kids on their own while holding down their jobs than stay at home with their kids.

To which I say, hahaha hohoho heeheehee, kids. Have fun in that dream world where you can either feel totally egalitarian about all aspects of life with your husband all the time, OR you can just leave your husband and do it all on your own, no problem! (And, young men, have fun in the dream world where you make so much money that asking your wife to scale back to take care of the very expensive wee ones is a no-brainer!)

My response to this on Twitter, and on Facebook, if you missed it, was (and I’m not directly quoting because I’m going to use real English words instead of the ones 140 characters forces) “It is easy to leave one’s hypothetical husband to raise one’s hypothetical children on the money one earns from one’s hypothetical job.”

I had more or less the same problem, the problem of talking in hypotheticals, when I talked about domestic violence. It is easy to say of a hypothetical man about which you only know that a) he hits you, or b) he wants you to quit your job and stay home with your kids, “Oh, I’d leave that asshole but quick.” Obviously, it’s not the same thing, exactly. A man who hits you is dangerous and violent and you really should get out as soon as you are able to do so, if possible, even if you love him, even if he’s a total dreamboat or makes a lot of money or has helped you out of a number of jams or whatever it is that’s keeping you in, you should leave. Whereas a man who wants you to stay home with the kids while you don’t want to do that just has a different vision of family life than you do; he’s not, you know, dangerous. I mean, one way an abuser operates is to make you dependent on him, and staying at home with the kids makes you dependent on your husband, but it does not follow that all husbands of stay-at-home moms are abusive. Anyway. My only point is that in both of these cases, people who say, “Oh, I would leave the asshole” are operating with a hypothetical asshole in mind and of course that guy is an asshole; he hits you or does not respect your career goals! But no one is actually involved with a one-dimensional man who only hits or only asks you to stay home. And if you’ve gotten to the point with someone where you’ve married them AND made the decision to have a baby with them, chances are there is much that you love about that person and would not find it easy to leave. You can say whatever you want to say about a thing that you’ll do in a hypothetical situation; it’s what happens when it’s an actual thing that counts. Until they look into how these choices play out for realz, this is like asking a bunch of eight-year-olds if they’d rather live on a moon base or in an undersea palace.

There was some negative reaction to Jessica Valenti’s Twitter post. I, for instance, said my thing about hypothetical husbands, which as far as I know, she didn’t read. She did read the one where someone accused her of feeling that being a SAHM was inherently oppressive. She argued on Twitter that posting a thing is not the same as approving of the thing, and said, to that point, “Learn how the internet works.” (Okay, I added the capital L. I’m sorry; I’m always going to be a little old-fashioned about grammar. Do you know how long it took me to agree to only one space between sentences?)

Now, I do know how the Internet works, and I know that usually, posting something without commenting on it IS approving it. For instance, when she posted this (and yes, that will be the subject of my post next week), she wrote snarky commentary ending in “Ok, then,” which made it clear how she felt about it. The only way a no-comment would be interpreted as disapproval would be if  it’s well-known by your followers that you would never in a million years approve of that position. For instance, if Jessica Valenti had posted, without comment, an article with the headline, “New Study Shows Women Often Say No, Mean Yes,” I would assume she disapproved of it.

I do not assume she feels that way about SAHMs.

Jessica Valenti argued with the follower that she had never said being a SAHM is “oppressive” but I read her Why Have Kids? and you know what? She strongly implies that being a SAHM is oppressive. I mean, I agree with a lot of her points in that book about how this culture of mommy perfection is, in fact, oppressive, and ruinous to women and their children, not to mention marriages, society, and happiness. But Jessica Valenti also titles one of her chapters – in the “Truth” section – “Smart Women Don’t Have Kids,” and also in the “Truth” section , “Women Should Work”. In an earlier section, she says that the zealous helicopter parenting derided in much media is “just the understandable outcome of expecting smart, driven women to find satisfaction in spit-up. All of the energy that they could be – and maybe should be – spending in the public sphere is directed at their children because they have no other place to put it.”

And,

“I’m also not arguing that women shouldn’t stay home with their children (well, not yet anyway).”

To conclude her chapter titled “Women Should Work,” she quotes Linda Hirshman extensively. Hirshman wrote Get to Work, a book about how “choice feminism” is bullshit and women should work both for their own benefit and for the benefit of all women everywhere. And also for the benefit of the world. Valenti says that she once was dismissive of Hirshman, because how could you dictate someone’s choice? She says, “while I was uncomfortable with the idea of mandating – or even suggesting – to women that there’s one better choice [between work and staying at home], I actually believe that there is.”

And it is?

“We need flexible work schedules, paid maternity leave (that lasts more than a few weeks or months), subsidized child care, and workplaces that are parent friendly. … I don’t think it’s a good idea to depend on someone else financially for an extended period of time.” She mentions the idea of the US providing a wage for housework and child care, as it is labor that contributes to the economy (and the overall productivity of the United States), but says, “that’s not the world we live in right now.”

Right. Neither is the world in which we have flexible work schedules, paid maternity leave, or subsidized child care. So in the mean time, women are going to try to make the best choices they can.

Jessica Valenti’s book is by no means unsupportive of the idea that everyone’s making the best decisions they can under current conditions, and she’s right to point out that current conditions suck, and suck in specifically anti-woman ways. I actually really liked Why Have Kids?, and I liked it specifically because I hate the idea that a woman’s “choice” to work or not work while having kids is made in a vacuum, and institutional support (or lack thereof) for those choices plays no part. I always want to look at systems, not individuals, and so does Valenti. Valenti also makes much of the culture of mommy perfection that’s driving everyone f-ing nuts, and that’s really important to discuss, too.

But it’s not out of left field to conclude that Jessica Valenti finds the idea of being a stay-at-home mom oppressive, as her Twitter follower suggested. And it’s not trolling to say so. (Now, maybe this follower did say and do more trollish things in private messages. I don’t know.)

And this is also why Twitter is a sucky forum for in-depth conversation.

Personal blogs are much better!

I will be honest here; I have had a rough time becoming a SAHM. It was not what I expected to do with my life and in some ways I feel like it’s due to some personal failures that it ended up being the best choice for me. I spent my post-college and pre-kid years in academic programs that had little hope of getting me a job outside academia, and then didn’t pursue them far enough to get a job inside academia, and, as most grown-ups know but as I refused to really acknowledge, “a job inside academia” is as much a fantasy as “the super-easy nature of divorcing the man you once loved enough to marry and make children with, and raise those children on your own with the money you will have no problem making as a single mom in a high-earning profession.” So that left me more or less unemployable anyway when I had a child, which made staying home with her the easy choice, especially considering that a) my husband wanted me to, and b) my husband could afford for me to. I still teach Hebrew school a few hours a week, and now I am trying to make a go of writing, but 85% of my time is spent being a SAHM.

And it’s not that there aren’t some aspects of it I love. I mean, I get to spend all this time with my kid. Woohoo! And I love being able to run errands and go shopping and do other things during hours where nobody else is there; I now get almost offended when I have to go to a mall on a weekend and OTHER PEOPLE are ALL OVER THE GODDAMNED PLACE. I’ve learned to cook really well and I have the opportunity to throw parties and dinners and welcome other people into my home to cook for them; I’ve been able to continue teaching Hebrew school, which I really love and which would be harder to do with a full-time job AND a family. I’m on two volunteer committees to host conferences that I think are going to be really cool and, again, I couldn’t have done that AND done adequate work at a full-time job AND taken care of my family. And, oh yeah, I have time to write. And blog. And I know that we are DAMNED lucky that my husband a) has a job that can support us, and b) has hours that let him spend lots of time with us, too. So that’s all a pretty good deal.

But I’m a feminist, and I read websites like Jessica Valenti’s feministing and Jezebel, and of all the things that make me struggle with my choice to stay home, this is the stuff that hurts the most. Well, no. Not making my own money hurts the most. And then there’s the disapproval from people I actually know and love. But there have been several instances lately of forum dwellers over at Jezebel calling SAHMs prostitutes because we allow our husbands to pay our bills and also we have sex with them. And there is a sit-commy joke in here about how married people with kids never have sex anyway so it’s the highest-paying per-sex-act prostitution job you can get, but . . . yeah.

Look, it hurts, is all I’m saying, to hear over and over again that while you’re doing the best thing you can think to do, the people you admire and respect, the people you consider yourself to be part of, at best pity you and at worst think you’re prostituting yourself by doing it. Especially since child care and housekeeping is work that needs to be done by someone, at some point. And child care, especially, is not work that gets any less time-consuming once your kids hit kindergarten. School hours are not the same as work hours, and now you can’t let the precious little ones so much as get on or off a bus on their own, so someone has to be in the home to deal with pick-up and drop-off, and it’s either going to be you or someone you pay. Or you can pay extra for an after-school program. If you can have a job that makes enough money to make that a worthwhile decision. Plus there’s extra-curriculars and monitoring the homework and participating in school projects, and most public schools basically run on the unpaid efforts of the stay-at-home moms who volunteer for shit like the PTA and fundraising and whatnot. And sure, you can opt out of doing it, but only because other parents are doing it instead of you. Schools where no parents can afford the time to distribute the flyers and organize the bake sales and hang streamers suffer for it.

I really would love to see more of an effort by feminists to understand how much of what SAHMs do IS work, and work that the world NEEDS done. I don’t believe I’ll ever get paid a wage for it, but operating on that understanding first, rather than the understanding that doing paid work would be better for women, would be an important first step. They’re always reporting on who’s happier, SAHMs or working mothers, and the results seem to show that working mothers have a slight edge but actually part-time working mothers beat both, but, even when these statistics are mentioned by feminists like Valenti, there’s no recognition that their own stance that being a SAHM is a lesser life (and don’t tell me you don’t think it is, Jessica Valenti!) is contributing to the unhappiness of SAHMs, the same way pressure from the non-feminist world is contributing to the unhappiness of the working mother.

(And yeah, I haven’t dealt at all with the concept of stay-at-home dads, or men trying to balance family and work, or non-heterosexual families, or non-nuclear family arrangements. Sorry. It’s just a blog post, not a book.)

Shooting

I was going to say something about this yesterday, when I was watching the Jon Stewart segment on discussions of gun violence as relates to that basketball player and Bob Costas (who by the way is going on my list of people who obviously have a hideously disfigured and rapidly aging portrait of themselves in their attics, along with Rob Lowe and Jon Bon Jovi) and people like Ted Nugent saying something about “Only fools blame tools instead of human” something. But I didn’t say it yesterday so I guess I might as well say it today.

I sort of agree that people kill, not guns. But the thing is, guns are a tool the only use of which is for killing. “But hunting!” Right. Hunting is also killing. Not that I don’t see the point. But also, Jason, who gets interested in stuff like this, has explained to me that there are guns the best use of which is hunting and guns the best use of which is not hunting. If there were a law in this country that we could only possess the kind that’s best used for hunting, I’d be cool with that. “But defense of your home against intruders!” Right. Okay. That’s legit, I guess. I like the idea of stuff like rubber bullets or tasers or something in that case, because you can stop an intruder without killing him (or her, I suppose – how many home invasions are committed by females?). I mean, I know you can kill with a rubber bullet, but you can kill with a lot of things. You just have to be trying a lot harder, or have the worst luck ever.

So guns are tools the only use of which is for killing. And I am fully willing to blame a person and not a gun for when a person takes that gun into an elementary school classroom and opens fire on HIS MOM and A BUNCH OF KIDS. But the thing is, as far as I can tell, most humans in this country cannot be trusted with guns. So I think we should make it really hard to own one.

Look, cars are tools, and cars sometimes kill (although their primary purpose is not killing), and yet we allow a lot of people to drive them. But not until they’re 16-17, and not without giving them classes on how to use them properly, both in a classroom and in an actual car, supervised by a teacher and/or parent, and not without testing them to make sure those classes took. And you can have your license revoked for various misuse of the tool. And the thing is, with America being what it is, people really, really need cars. So the standards for allowing people to have them have to be as lax as possible without allowing known dangerous drivers on the road.

Guns are not really, really necessary to the American way of life the way cars are. I know, I know. Hunting! Defense! But we have supermarkets, and we have police. And baseball bats. Whereas we don’t have really great public transportation, or walkable communities, or bike paths, in most places. So we don’t really need guns the way we need cars. So it should be fine to make really, really strict laws on a) what kind of guns can be sold, and b) what kind of people can buy them. You should not only have to, at a certain age, pass a written test, have a permit under which you can shoot in supervised situations for six months, then take a test proving you know how to use the gun and be issued a license that can be revoked at any time, and also have to subject your guns to state inspections every once in a while to make sure you don’t have the wrong kind or haven’t done something to your state-approved one to make it illegal, just like you have to do with cars; you should also have to pass a psychological test certifying that you are a human we can trust with a tool the only use of which is for killing. That you will only shoot it if someone is about to harm you or your family, or if you need meat and are therefore aiming it at a deer or something.

I am fully willing to blame humans for gun violence. But, therefore, I do not want to allow humans free access to guns and then wait until they’ve killed 20 SCHOOL CHILDREN to take it away from them. Therefore, I want to seriously restrict which humans can have guns and what kinds they can have.

Somebody, please explain to me why this is unreasonable.